Raleigh, N.C. — With only one month until across-the-board federal budget cuts kick in, the White House and Congress continued to maneuver Friday for political leverage in the national debt debate.
President Barack Obama urged Congress on Friday to pass an extension of tax cuts for middle-class families, saying a tax increase for them would be like a "lump of coal" for Christmas.
In his first campaign-style event to sell his solution on the so-called "fiscal cliff," Obama was in Philadelphia suburbs to say that Republicans should extend existing Bush-era tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less while allowing increases to kick in for the wealthy.
Democrats and Republicans need to "get out of our comfort zones" to reach an agreement, he said.
The president toured a manufacturing facility that builds construction toys, joking that he's keeping his own "naughty and nice list" for Congress and telling the public to pressure lawmakers to pass the tax cut extension for the middle class.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, said current talks have reached a stalemate. He and other Republican leaders are calling on Obama and Democrats to give more spending cuts than are currently on the table, saying tax increases would hurt small businesses just coming through the recession.
"Hopefully, folks in Congress and the White House will show some leadership and do the right thing for America and North Carolina," said Lew Ebert, president of the North Carolina Chamber.
If no deal is reached, some economists predict the U.S. economy could fall back into recession. Estimates suggest 3.4 million jobs could be lost nationwide.
"It could be a real blow to the North Carolina economy at a time we could ill afford it," Ebert said.
A recent report from the National Association of Manufacturers says more than 1 million private-sector jobs are at risk, including 34,000 in North Carolina.
Cary-based Lord Corp., which makes products from adhesives to vibration- and motion-control devices, plans to hire 70 people next year, including scientists, engineers and salespeople. President and Chief Executive Rick McNeel said those plans would be jeopardized if no agreement is reached by the deadline.
"It's a national issue. It's a state issue. It's an issue for Lord," McNeel said.
More than a third of the global company's business is in aerospace projects, including 15 percent in defense contracts.
"I think it'll be an issue for many companies that have no idea it's going to be an issue for them," McNeel said.